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History of Handgun Ammunition
By Sam Jacobs
All modern firearms cartridges are built from the same components: a case, primer, powder and bullet. While there have been huge advances in handgun ammunition since the 1830's, the overall design remains the same.
The first self contained handgun ammo in production was the .22 Short, this rimfire cartridge was well received and remains in production to this day. With its small black powder charge and 29 grain bullet, the .22 Short is not suitable for anything other than hunting the smallest game and small varmint control, but, the small amount of recoil and quiet report have kept the .22 Short in demand. Soon after the .22 Short was introduced, other larger rimfire cartridges were introduced in sizes up to .58 caliber.
Centerfire handgun cartridges became popular in revolvers in the 1870's. The most popular of the revolvers in this time was the 1873 Colt Single Action Army. Chambered in the iconic, .45 Colt, known by many as "The Gun That Won The West, the Single Action Army would go on to inspire other single action pistols of the time. Another cartridge that was used in the Colt Single Action Army revolver was the .44-40. This cartridge was designed initially for use in lever action rifles, but was quickly accepted because of its effectiveness and versatility as a person could own a rifle and handgun without keeping up with two types of ammo.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, several cartridges were introduced for the cutting edge in handgun design, the semi automatic pistol. The .30 Luger and .30 Borchardt met with some success, but in 1902 the 9mm Luger was introduced. This cartridge soon became the leading centerfire pistol cartridge across the world, it was quickly adopted by militaries across the world. The United States however, had its own ideas when it came to pistol rounds. Army officials adopted the .45 ACP cartridge in 1911, deciding that bullet weight rather than velocity would be the deciding factor for their service pistol cartridge.
Since the early 20th century, the basic construction of handgun ammunition has remained essentially the same. There have been several important cartridges added to the line up over the years. The .357 and 44 Magnums, the .40 Smith and Wesson and the .380 ACP have all had a great impact on the development and direction of modern handgun ammunition.
Today's shooter has so many different options when it comes to handgun ammunition that might be overwhelming to the novice shooter. From bullet shape, weight and design, to case construction and special purpose ammo, the choices in handgun ammo are better now than they have ever been.
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